The Debate over Islam's Origins and an Enigmatic Arabic Papyrus
Tue, March 25, 2014 • 3:30 PM • GAR 4.100
History Lecture Series presents Fred Donner Ph.D.
"The origins of Islam remain obscure because our traditional picture is based not on true documents, but on Muslim literary sources of later date, which present an idealized picture of what happened. Over the past several decades, historians have proposed numerous revisionist reinterpretations of how Islam began, some of which the talk will summarize, but these often pose problems of their own. The only way to attain a clearer view of "what actually happened" is to utilize to the fullest the actual documents that do survive, a challenge that has been relatively neglected. The second part of the talk will present, in layman's terms, a recently-discovered early papyrus letter that sheds interesting light on the earliest community, while raising questions of its own about our understanding of how Islam began."
Fred M. Donner is Professor of Near Eastern History in The Oriental Institute and Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, and Director of Center for Middle Eastern Studies, at The University of Chicago.